GSN Review: Bare Knuckle Bourbon, Rye & Wheat Whiskies

KO Distilling recently unveiled its third brown spirit – Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey (aged 2 years). Hand crafted from local Virginia corn, wheat and malted barley, the bourbon is rested in charred new American Oak barrels sourced from a cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky.

Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey joins the rest of the KO portfolio of aged spirits, which includes Bare Knuckle American Wheat Whiskey (aged 12 months) and Bare Knuckle American Rye Whiskey (aged 18 months).

KO sources its wheat, corn, rye and malted barley to make small batch whiskeys from local farms. In so doing, it supports a “grain-to-glass” concept for its spirits, similar to the “farm-to-table” food model for restaurants. This helps small businesses in the area work together to support the local economy. “We’re all about helping local small businesses, and sourcing our grains from Virginia farms allows all of us to work together to support the local economy,” said Co-Founder and Head Distiller John O’Mara.

Inspired by courage, strength, fortitude, and using your hands to get things done, the Bare Knuckle branding is a play on KO – “Knock Out.”  The bottle labels feature historic fighting figures, such as African-American world heavyweight champion Jack G. Johnson and Irish-American fighter Jimmy Gardner.  Gracing the label of KO’s newest release is early 20th-century U.S. champion fighter Mary “Texas Mamie” Donovan.

“The imagery and the text on the bottle label celebrate life, not violence,” said Co-Founder Bill Karlson. “The Bare Knuckle brand is about winning, advancing and prevailing in life and in your craft. For ages, women, like men, have battled for family, to make a living, for rights and just causes. For all of those women who work hard every day, we salute you and are proud to feature an American female fighter on our bottle.”

Bare Knuckle American Wheat (90 proof)
Bright copper.
Nose: Slightly funky with a white dog character. Lighter notes of oak, char and leather float on top of the more rugged base.
Taste: Fairly smooth considering the relatively young 1 year aging. Nice and soft with wheat character and easy-going. Towards the end, more of the oak character reveals itself.
Finish: Medium long, with a dry and woody finality.
Overall: Our favorite of the trio.  Fine as a sipper, this also works really well in a Manhattan.
GSN Rating: A-

Bare Knuckle American Rye (90 proof)
Visual: Darkening copper.
Nose: Rye spice comes out at the gate, followed by a strong whiff of barrel char. Surprisingly, there is a dark port scent here as well.
Taste: Fairly mild rye character at first, but opens up into a toasty, dark and spicy treasure hunt. The 18 months of aging has done much to temper down the usual fiery quality of a rye forward whiskey.
Finish: Medium long, with a pleasant and tingling cinnamon sensation on the palate.
Overall: A mid-range rye that won’t disappoint.  We do think however, that another half-year of aging would tighten things up a bit.
GSN Rating: B+

Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon (90 proof)
Visual: Medium copper.
Nose: More of the musky white dog aura with a touch of sweet corn. Overall though, quite a bit of cask.
Taste: A less sweet and more aggressive bourbon, tending towards a bit too long in the barrel.  At two years, it should be smoothing out, but the oak char has really set its teeth in this whiskey.  Some of you may love this, but for us it needs tweaking.
Finish: After a few minutes, the flavors settle down and some more typical caramel and butterscotch notes come out. The finish is fine and tasty.
Overall: A good effort that will serve well in a mixed drink, but a bit unbalanced on its own.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: KO Distilling

2 thoughts on “GSN Review: Bare Knuckle Bourbon, Rye & Wheat Whiskies

  1. “A less sweet and more aggressive bourbon”
    Did we try the same stuff? Bare Knuckle Bourbon is sweet to the point of distraction. It’s very smooth but it’s just sugar from start to finish. I get very little smoke or oak, just that saccharin sweetness reminiscent of a bad Canadian.

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